Russia and Ukraine are major grain exporters, and the war has disrupted their exports and sent food prices soaring. The United Nations and Turkey brokered an agreement to resume grain shipments in July 2022, but Russia withdrew from the agreement in July 2023.
According to correspondents, in response to a question about what makes Ukraine an important part of the global food supply chain, it should be said that Ukraine is called the breadbasket of Europe and is a major supplier of wheat, barley, sunflower and corn products to Europe as well as developing countries such as the Middle East, North Africa and China.
More than 400 million people relied on Ukrainian food before Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. One major reason is that Ukraine has about a third of the world’s most fertile soil, known as chernozem, or black soil, and before the war, Ukraine could count on its year-round access to ice-free ports on the Black Sea to ship grain to nearby markets in the Middle East and Africa.
Worldwide famine was increasing even before the war, but the Russian invasion made the situation much worse. In a recent report, the United Nations declared that from 2019 to 2022, more than 122 million people will face hunger due to the combined effects of climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the war in Ukraine. Other researchers believe that global hunger is at its highest level since the early 2000s.
At least 25 million tons of Ukrainian grain from February to June 2022, destined for global markets, increased food prices during Russia’s naval blockade of Ukraine. On July 22, 2022, the United Nations and Turkey brokered what is officially known as the Black Sea Grains Agreement with Ukraine and Russia. The agreement allowed the safe passage of agricultural products from Ukraine through three ports on the Black Sea. While the original contract was supposed to last 120 days, it has been extended several times since then.
Since August 2022, Ukraine has exported more than 32 million tons of food products through the Black Sea. Ethiopia, Yemen, Afghanistan and Turkey were the largest recipients of humanitarian shipments. The United Nations has estimated that the grain agreement has reduced food prices by more than 23 percent since March 2022.
The amount of grain shipped in the month before the contract was terminated in July 2023 fell from a peak of 4.2 million tons in October to about 2 million tons in June. Another problem is lower production in general. Ukraine is expected to produce 31% less wheat, barley, corn and other crops this season than it did before the war.
Russia had previously threatened to withdraw from the deal but stayed in it each time, but on July 17, 2023, it announced that it was not willing to stay in the deal unless its demands for more shipments of food and fertilizers were met.
According to a Viforum report, the deal’s hold caused prices of vital commodities such as wheat and corn to skyrocket, creating widespread uncertainty and global fears about hunger. Chicago wheat futures prices are up about 17% since Russia pulled out of the deal.
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